The role of content in local SEO is possibly the most misunderstood topic in digital marketing. Local business websites are filled with content that doesn’t rank in local searches or provide useful information to potential customers. Blogs are one way to provide a boost to your local business website, but not without a proper strategy. This content marketing strategy for local businesses will help you develop blog content that will attract customers and rank highly in searches. For a complete training video on the topic, check out Planning Content to Rank in Local Search and Drive Business.
For years, local business website owners have heard that blogging will help their website rank better on Google, leading them to haphazardly write about anything that popped into their heads. It has resulted in a huge waste of time and in many cases has even hurt the search visibility of their websites.
Let’s get this out of the way—simply writing a whole bunch of content that no one reads will not help your SEO. Period.
This does not mean that blogging can’t help increase your search engine visibility—you just need to know what you should be writing about. Your blog can be used to drive qualified traffic. You can make that happen with a better understanding of two important fundamentals of writing content that drives business in local search:
- How to identify topics you can blog about that will drive qualified buyers to your website
- How you can increase the likelihood that these articles will rank highly
Three Reasons To Create Content for a Local Business
Before we get into the tactics, let’s discuss the role of blog content in local SEO.
While there may be many reasons for creating content for large companies, the reasons are usually more limited when marketing a local business. When we write content for a local business, it’s usually for one of the following three reasons:
- The blog topic addresses a topic with an implied need for the website’s services (at Sagapixel, we refer to this as “buyers’ journey content”)
- The topic is one that is likely to attract links over time; these are commonly referred to as “linkable assets” or “link magnets.” For local businesses, this can often be a study or a piece of content that is relevant to a local geographic market
- We wish to engage in thought leadership; a.k.a. “we’re building an audience and making a name for ourselves” (this article doesn’t get into this kind of content)
You, the business owner or marketing manager, need to determine what role your blog will play in your online marketing. Are you hoping to attract leads through blog posts? Are you hoping to earn links to your content? Are you using your blog as a platform to attract attention?
Before you even start writing for your blog, you need to determine what the end goal is. Once you’ve decided what you want a specific piece of content to do, you can get started planning.
What is Buyer’s Journey Content?
In marketing, the buyer’s journey is the process that someone goes through from recognizing they have a problem, to researching the options, to paying for a solution, and finally, recommending a solution to others. Buyer’s journey content answers questions that demonstrate an implied need for the products and services you offer.
Let’s say, for example, you are a bankruptcy lawyer. “How to stop a foreclosure in NJ” would be an incredibly valuable query to rank for on Google. The person performing that search clearly has a need for your services and very well may contact you after reading your blog post.
This content strategy works best for the types of businesses that people have questions about.
Here are a few examples of the types of queries a local business could target with content:
- A real estate appraiser – “How to challenge a tax assessment in NYC”
- A women’s boutique – “Best jeans for thick thighs”
- An accountant – “941 does not match payroll”
Someone researching any of these three topics can probably benefit from these local businesses and often, long-tail keywords such as these are easy to rank for.
When Buyer’s Journey Content Goes Wrong
There are three common mistakes that people make when creating buyer’s journey content:
- They choose a topic that isn’t aligned with the buyer’s journey
- They write about something that is too competitive for them to rank for
- They write about something with too little monthly search volume
Let’s talk about avoiding these pitfalls.
The Topic is Not Aligned with the Buyers’ Journey
Below is a prime example of a topic that on the surface may appear to be relevant to a car accident lawyer’s website, but clearly isn’t on the buyer’s journey:
To start, the monthly search volume for this search is so low that our tool shows it as “N/A.” The audience for this topic is miniscule.
The search “how to prepare for a vehicle crash,” doesn’t demonstrate an implied need for a personal injury lawyer. A topic such as this could make sense for an ecommerce website selling roadside first aid or accident kits, but there is no clear pathway from someone Googling “how to prepare for a car accident” to calling a car accident lawyer.
If The Topic is Too Competitive, Move On
We once had a divorce lawyer client ask us to write an article on pets and divorce. We did keyword research and found that we’d have to outrank Huffington Post and Time.com in order to get any sort of search traffic for this topic.
We told her “sure, we can write it, but I recommend against it.” She acquiesced and with 15 minutes of keyword research, we found a great topic that within a month of publication had already driven a few leads through the blog post.
How can you tell if a topic is too competitive?
If you have an SEO tool such as Ahrefs, it can be a lot easier to see whether an article has a large number of backlinks or if the overall backlink profile of the domains in the top results is robust or not:
In this case, a business that sells pool covers could compare its own metrics to this website’s to get an idea of the amount ofPageRankgoing to this specific article.
Don’t let metrics scare you away, though.
Click on the results and actually read the top results. Are the articles old or outdated?
Do they cover the topic thoroughly?
Is there a chance that you could write something substantially better? (While remembering that longerdoesn’t necessarily mean better.)
Are there any forum answers as top results? (I’ve found that searches that have forum threads on page 1 tend to be easy to rank for).
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” there’s a good chance that despite what the tools are telling you, you might be able to rank for this keyword—as long as you cover the topic substantially better.
If you don’t have access to an SEO tool, start by looking at the domains in the top results. Are the top results from large publishers or corporations? Are the articles thorough? If the answer to these questions is “no,” there’s a chance that you might be able to rank for it.
The Content Can Serve as a Linkable Asset
Not all content has to be written with the intention of driving qualified leads to the website. Sometimes it makes sense to write about a topic because it is likely to earn links over time, increasing the amount of PageRank flowing to the site and increasing its topical authority. We refer to such pieces of content as “linkable assets.”
While everyone would love for all of their content to be “linkable,” in practice, content that passively earns links over time typically has one of two characteristics:
- It explains how to solve a problem
- It serves to support a conclusion, often in the form of data
Note: companies with large budgets may be able to dedicate significant resources to produce deep studies, cool tools, or other types of linkable assets that may even be pressworthy. I am not going to get into strategies for those types of linkable assets because they are typically too expensive for a local business to produce.
Below are two examples of content produced by Local Marketing Institute that have these characteristics and are prime examples of content that can serve as a linkable asset for a local business:
Why These Articles Work as Linkable Assets
The first post answers a very specific question related to a problem many local businesses encounter: “how to get your business listed on Yahoo.”
This is a very common problem for small business owners. Other websites that are writing about the topic of local citations may mention how it may be difficult to claim a Yahoo listing and link to this guide on how to do it.
The second example shares a statistic. Statistics are useful for people that need to back up a statement they make on their own website. Often, another website may make a statement, look for data to back it up, then cite you as the source. In this case, the article talks about how a huge number of businesses haven’t yet claimed their GMB.
We’ve had the most success passively earning links to content on local business websites by producing a linkable asset (vs. a buyer’s journey post) and ensuring it either answers a question a blog owner would want to link to or that includes some sort of data or statistic another website may cite.
Tips For Finding Topics to Write About
Here are some valuable tips that will help you better plan content in order to rank and drive business.
Pick a Goal
As you are planning your content, it’s important to determine what kind of content you’re producing. Are you writing a buyer’s journey post? Are you trying to create a linkable asset? Or, are you trying to establish thought leadership with your post? Having a clear goal is critical in terms of planning content that will actually rank and drive business to your website.
Find Buyer’s Journey Topics Using Ahrefs Content Explorer
SEO tool Ahrefs has a fantastic tool called “Content Explorer.” With this tool, you can enter a seed keyword and filter the results to only deliver results from websites with similar metrics to yours that you could potentially compete against.
I’ve applied filters to only view articles with a minimum of 100 monthly traffic and a maximum domain rating of 60.
This will filter out large publications that we have little chance of outranking, as well as articles that do not get sufficient organic traffic to be worth our time writing about.After searching this topic with these filters, we found an article about suicide and life insurance, which could possibly be on the buyer’s journey of a person looking to retain a lawyer to fight a life insurance claim denial:
The article gets a good amount of traffic and it doesn’t have a huge number of backlinks, which means it’s likely to be relatively easy to rank for. Additionally, this post was written in 2013, which presents the opportunity to possibly outrank this post with fresher content.
Find a Topic Using Autocomplete
If you aren’t familiar with Ahrefs or you don’t have an account, another option to find content to write about is by using Google’s autocomplete feature. When you go to Google’s search bar and begin typing in your topic, Google will deliver autocomplete search suggestions based on the likelihood of what you are about to search for next.
These suggestions are Google’s guess of what you are most likely going to search based on other users’ searches. Below is an example of this:
As you enter new words into the search bar, autocomplete may show topics that are on your buyer’s journey.
Pay Attention to Content Formats
Once you have identified a topic that you have a chance to rank for, that can either drive qualified traffic, and has enough monthly search volume, it’s time to write.
Remember, however, that simply writing about a topic doesn’t mean you’re going to rank well for it. Google’s search results are designed to deliver the content formats that people want for specific queries.
For example, the top results for “55+ communities near me” are almost entirely directories:
The reason for this is simple: internet users want to compare options and read reviews. If you are a local 55+ community that wants to rank for this keyword, the only opportunity available in the blue link results for this query would require you to produce a directory-like page of 55+ communities and place yourself as the top result.
If all of the top results for a keyword are guides, you need to write a guide. If all the top results are directories, you’ll need to create a directory page. If the top results are product category pages on an e-commerce website, that’s what you need to try to rank.
Paying close attention to the content formats of the top results can often uncover SEO opportunities. Here’s an example of a local business outranking international brands.
Below is the SERP for “french dinnerware brands:”
The top result is a small local mom and pop store that outranks Williams Sonoma, Wayfair, and Bloomingdale’s.
How is that possible?
It’s because of the format of the content.
While the other results are all product category pages, this shop has a full guide to french dinnerware brands on this page:
The other results are product pages, which Google has determined do not align with the search intent behind this query as well as the guide:
Any shop that sells french dinnerware could jump at this opportunity by writing a more thorough post that the top result and link to the product pages covered in the article.
Ensure You’ve Covered the Topic Thoroughly
Here are a few techniques we use to ensure we’ve covered a topic thoroughly.
To start, WRITE AN OUTLINE.
As tempting as it may be to just start writing, an outline will offer you a birds eye view of how thoroughly you’ve covered the topic. Once you’ve completed the outline, there are several tactics you can use to find subtopics to add to your outline that you didn’t initially consider. The goal is to write an information-dense, thorough post on the topic you are writing about.
Read the Top Search Results
Go through the top results for this query and see what topics each cover. You’re almost always going to find that some of them covered topics you didn’t think of. Work them into your outline.
Using Ahrefs Site Explorer
If you have access to Ahrefs, enter the URLs of the top results and see what other keywords they rank for. Not only will this increase the likelihood of your post ranking for additional valuable keywords, you may uncover ideas for new sections in your outline.
Look at the “People Also Ask” Results on Google
The questions that show up in the people also ask feature on Google are topics Google thinks are related to the search you performed.
Review them, and if it makes sense to include a section in your post that covers these questions, write about them.
Use Answer the Public
Answer the public mines Google autocomplete to find the questions people ask related to a keyword. You can use the free version to get information about searches in the UK.
Mastering these Fundamentals Can Open Doors
Your blog can be a tremendous driver of qualified traffic, as well as a magnet for links that you don’t have to buy or beg for. It’s all a matter of getting good at the fundamentals of content marketing. Once you’ve mastered identifying blog topics with high intent to buy what you sell and you’ve created a machine that attracts links while you sleep, you can move onto more advanced techniques such as topic clustering.
Mastering these fundamentals can also open the doors to opportunities to write for industry blogs, which can expose you to larger audiences that may become customers. Ultimately, the goal is to create something of value that your potential customers will want. Once you have their attention and trust, they will be happy to depend on you to deliver the products and services you offer.